• Total Control Racing driver wraps-up Vice-Champion title by four points
• First year GT5 racer stars in final contest to overcome 10 second penalty
• Third place earlier in the weekend takes podium tally into double figures
Ginetta GT5 Challenge rookie Matt Chapman overcame the odds during a dramatic final race of the season at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 11th September, by overturning a luckless 10 second penalty to secure enough points to be crowned 2016 Vice-Champion.
Starting the weekend with fourth place in round 17 on Saturday, 10th September, the 16-year-old from Oxford raced to an excellent third position in round 18 on Sunday morning – the 10th podium finish of his maiden season in the championship – and then claimed sixth place in round 19.
Chapman headed into the last race of the season just a single point clear of Ryan Hadfield in the battle for second in the championship and, as a result of an unfortunate 10 second penalty for an ‘out of position start’, he had to overcome the handicap.
Finishing the race third on the road, having challenged hard for the podium throughout, sixth place on corrected times was enough to secure the Vice-Champion’s position by four points to cap an exceptionally strong first season of racing on slick tyres.
“It was a tough start to the weekend in qualifying, I couldn’t get a lap in with the traffic but we knew we could work from P8 anyway in the first race”, explained Matt, “We weren’t too fazed to be honest, and in race one I got up into fourth which was pretty good. Race two was the highlight with the podium, I just had to look after third place.
“There was only one point in it going into the final race and so the penalty for the start was really unfortunate as it’s so difficult to see the grid markings. In the end, though, we managed to do enough so I’m really pleased – to finish second to a great driver like Ollie [Chadwick], with all of his experience, is good for my first season. Huge thank you to TCR for giving me a fantastic car all year.”
After a break of two months since the previous event at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, where Matt returned to the top step of the podium, the Total Control Racing driver was hungry to be back on track but Saturday’s rain-affected qualifying session didn’t go to plan with the eighth best time.
Moving up into seventh place on the opening lap of the first race later in the day, he closed down the cars ahead and, on lap three, grabbed sixth position. Taking fifth a lap later, his rise through the order was complete on the fifth tour when he broke into the top four.
Starting the first of Sunday’s two encounters from the second row of the grid, Matt made a good getaway from the line and challenged for third into Redgate before then slicing his way through into the lead of the race as Ollie Chadwick and Ryan Hadfield forced each other wide while battling.
With nothing to separate the lead contenders, Matt found himself under huge pressure but he didn’t put a wheel wrong initially as he kept his challengers at bay. Edged back to second place by Hadfield on lap three at Redgate, the TCR racer refused to let his rival get away and into McLeans he swept past again to re-take the lead.
On the run into Coppice, though, he was on the outside line and, as a result, was elbowed back to fourth position. At Melbourne Hairpin shortly after, however, he took third place again following a spin for Chadwick.
Close behind Jonny Hadfield’s Ginetta GT5 into lap four, Matt pressured and took second place brilliantly but was re-passed and so found himself back in third once more. Edged to fourth on lap five, he battled hard to get back into podium contention and on the final lap he returned to the top three when Jonny Hadfield’s race ended after a tangle with a backmarker.
Beginning the crucial final race – screened live on Motors TV – from seventh on the grid, he swiftly climbed into sixth place at Craner Curves and then took fifth before the run to Coppice where he then powered into the top four.
Looking to break into the podium places at Melbourne Hairpin, Matt moved into third and looked for second as the pack bunched up but he emerged in fourth as the lead cars tripped over each other. Soon after, officials served the TCR driver with his 10 second ‘out of position’ penalty from the start of the race which dropped him outside the top 15 on corrected time.
Working incredibly hard to try and overcome the penalty, after a short Safety Car period he reeled off a series of ultra-impressive laps to try and undo the damage, setting fastest lap along the way before it was fractionally bettered on the last lap. In the end, he managed to claw back the time difference from 19th on corrected times into the top six to seal the Vice-Champion’s position.